Car Seats in a 2016-2021 Volvo XC90



  • Trunk space is minimal when 3rd row is in use
  • 3rd row is not suitable for younger kids because there’s not enough room to fit most rear-facing seats and there’s no tether anchors for forward-facing seats
  • Access to 3rd row does not work with a car seat installed on that outboard seat

The XC90 is one of our top picks for a mid-size, luxury SUV – in particular because it allows 3-across better than most of its competitors, offers advanced seat belt technology (pretensioners) in every position in the entire vehicle, making it the only 3-row SUV to do this, and has superior crash prevention technology.

3-across in the XC90’s 2nd row works well with certain combinations of car seats and boosters – which we explain below. 

We spent many, many hours installing lots of car seats in the XC90 to give you “recipes” for how to fit 3-across (or 2-together). There are certainly additional combinations that work… but we’ve given you quite a few combos to choose from and tried to select seats that do best in both crash testing and are most user-friendly. 

XC90 Models

The XC90 was redesigned for 2016, and was available only as a 7-seater with three seats in the 2nd row and two seats in the 3rd row. Starting in 2020, the XC90 is also available as a 6-seater with two seats (Captain’s Chairs) in the 2nd row. The information on this page applies to all 7-seater XC90 models – because you can’t do 3-across in the 6-seater since it only has 2 seats in the 2nd row. 

Captain's Chairs vs. "Bench"

One of the fabulous features of the XC90 is that the 7-seater does not have a true bench in the 2nd row. Rather, it has three separate seats in the 2nd row. This is an important distinction as each of the seats moves independently forward and back, and both outboard seats move for 3rd row access. To learn more about why we always recommend getting three seats in the 2nd row, read this

Built-in Booster

Volvo offers an optional built-in booster in 2C (2nd row center seat) that is fabulous in that in 5 seconds it can be there when you want it to be, or hidden when you don’t. If you’ll have kids age 6-12 riding in the XC90, we’d strongly recommend getting the built-in booster as you’ll likely find it very useful. Kids also love it because it doesn’t look like a booster – since it’s just the vehicle seat pan that pops up to boost the child. It’s a terrific backless booster… but if your kid will be sleeping we’d recommend using a high back booster to prevent the child from falling sideways during sleep.

3rd Row

The 3rd row of the XC90 is rather compact and has no LATCH – lower anchors or tether anchors (in the 6-seater there is one tether anchor in the 3rd row to fulfill the government’s requirement for the vehicle to have 3 tether anchors). The 3rd row is best used for older kids in backless boosters and smaller adults – and because there are pretensioners in the 3rd row seat belts it is a safer 3rd row than many of the other SUVs.

Because the 3rd row seats are slightly higher than the 2nd row, older kids in boosters will benefit from a booster that doesn’t boost them quite as high – so their head isn’t too close to the roof. The Graco Rightguide is a great backless booster to use in this 3rd row.

3rd Row Access

2D (2nd row driver’s side) and 2P (2nd row passenger side) have a tilt + slide mechanism for 3rd row access. However, with a car seat installed in 2D or 2P this mechanism does not function. For families with 2 kids who wish to preserve 3rd row access, we recommend putting the kids side-by-side and leaving one of the outboard seats empty, which can be used for an adult to sit in back as well as 3rd row access. Below we highlight if the car seat in the center allows for 3rd row access or not – as some car seats in the center overhang a smidge into one or both of the outboard seats, thereby preventing the outboard seats from sliding for 3rd row access. For rear-facing kids, the Clek Foonf is a great option to use in the center to preserve 3rd row access in both 2D and 2P. For forward-facing kids, the Nuna Exec in 2C will preserve 3rd row access from 2P (but not 2D). 

Abbreviations Used:

2D: 2nd Row Driver’s Side || 2C: 2nd Row Center Seat || 2P: 2nd Row Passenger’s Side

RF: Rear-facing || FF: Forward-facing || HBB: High-back Booster || NBB: No-back Booster

Why Did We Choose These Car Seats and Boosters?

We know you’ll want to learn more about how and why we chose these car seats and boosters. You’ll find in depth explanations about each one of them here including links where you can purchase – so you can be sure you’re getting the exact model shown.

Seat Back Recline Trick

We used the seat back recline trick for every car seat installation shown below. It allowed us to get a tight installation in some really tight spots. Therefore, be sure to watch this video to learn what it is and how to do it.

3 RF Convertibles

2D: Clek Foonf (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)
2C: Clek Fllo (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)
2P: Clek Foonf (seat belt + anti-rebound bar)

Notes: Clek Q-Tether (not shown in picture) may be added to make the RF Clek Foonf and Fllo even safer.